How to improve your brain health – Clean Nutrition

The man looked back at his newly-introduced acquaintance in embarrassment: “Can you tell me your name again?” This happens every day to most of us. Is this the beginnings of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease?

Perhaps but perhaps not. Forgetting someone’s name after meeting him or her may simply be a matter of our attention being elsewhere. Or, it could be the beginning of an eventual struggle to remember even the closest of relatives.

The point is, many of us are extremely concerned about our memory. Why? Because dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (a type of dementia) are striking more and more of us during our elderly years.

Nearly 7 million Americans now have dementia, according to a U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment. Nearly 2 million cases are severe. According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2009 report, about 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, and Alzheimer’s is now the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.

Dementia occurs when neuron-bridging synapses within the cortex and hippocampus are lost due to toxins, lack of blood flow, amyloid plaque buildup and/or decreased catecholamine neurotransmitters.

While pharmaceutical companies struggle to find cures, the better plan is to prevent dementia before it occurs. Let’s discuss a few natural strategies supported by recent research.

Phospholipids Cell membrane phospholipids are stacked into arrays with channels that allow nutrients and minerals into and out of the cell. Deficits in phospholipids like phosphatidylserine (PS) and glycerophosphocholine (GPC) lead to a loss of cell conductivity.

After a number of studies confirmed PS’s necessity for brain health, the FDA allowed the following claim for PS supplementation: “PS may reduce the risk of cognitive dysfunction in the elderly”.

For example, Stanford University and Vanderbilt University researchers gave 149 patients suffering from age-associated memory impairment 300 mg of phosphatidylserine per day or placebo for 12 weeks. The PS group had learning and memory performance that was 30 percent higher than the placebo group.

In a GPC study, 2,044 patients suffering from cognitive damage after a stroke were given 1,000-1,200 mg per day of GPC for six months. The GPC group had significant improvements in memory Cognitive decline decreased as well.

Pycnogenol Pycnogenol is derived from the French maritime pine tree. A 2008 study by Australia’s National Institute of Complementary Medicine on 101 elderly adults between 60 and 85 years of age showed that pycnogenol increases attention, memory and psychomotor ability.

Periwinkle Vinca minor is an herb with a long history of use as a brain tonic. Over 150 studies have shown that the periwinkle extract, vinpocetine, improves cognition and memory.

Bacopa Bacopa monnieri is an ancient Ayurvedic cognition herb. The Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine reported that elderly participants given 300 mg of bacopa extract for 12 weeks increased word recall memory and concentration. This was also seen in a 2002 study from Australia’s University of Woolongong on 76 elderly patients.

Tenuifolia Polygala tenuifolia is a traditional Chinese medicine used for many centuries for cognitive decline. Research in 2009 on 53 elderly adults from Seoul National University and the National Creative Research Initiative Center for Alzheimer’s Dementia and Neuroscience Research Institute showed that the root extract of tenuifolia increased constructive recall, memory and word list recognition.

Turmeric Cucuma longa’s ability to boost memory and delay dementia has been shown in more than 25 studies Turmeric’s ability to help clear beta-amy-loid plaque has also been shown.

Sage Salvia officianalis is a memory-enhancing herb used for centuries in traditional medicine. A 2003 study from Tehran University’s Medical School showed that 60 drops per day given to 41 Alzheimer’s disease patients for four months increased cognitive function.

American Ginseng Panax quinquefolius has been used for many centuries to boost memory and attention span in Chinese medicine. 2010 research from Australia’s Swinburn University on 25 healthy young adults confirmed that ginseng improved working memory.

Vitamins and Fatty Acids Researchers have found niacin deficiencies among dementia and Alzheimer’s disease patients. In a five-year study of 3,718 Chicago-area volunteers, published in the Journal of Neurosurgical Psychiatry, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s was reduced by 80 percent among the highest niacin-food intake group (22.5 mg/day) and by 70 percent among higher niacin-supplement groups (17-45 mg/day) compared to lower dosage groups. This benefit was increased with multivitamins and antioxidants.

Research from Italy’s University of Perugia found that blood levels of vitamin A, vitamin E, lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-cryptoxanthin, lycopene, alpha- and betacarotene were all significantly lower among the cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s subjects.

Several studies have shown that multivitamins can help reduce the risk of dementia. University of Calgary researchers studied 894 65-plus volunteers. After five years (2005), those who took vitamins C and E and/or multivitamins had significantly less cognitive decline and cognitive vascular impairment.

Folic acid and vitamin B12 are also suspected to increase cognition and delay dementia. Omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA from algal sources (very pure form) have also been shown to support cognition and possibly delay cognitive decline.

The sunshine vitamin Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to cognitive issues. In a 2008 study from Emory University’s School of Medicine, 55 percent of Parkinson’s disease patients and 41 percent of Alzheimer’s disease patients were vitamin D deficiency. In a 2009 University of Alabama study of 16,800 adults over the age of 45, increased sunlight exposure elevated cognitive function.

Plant-based foods The American Journal of Geriatrics Psychiatry published a study in late 2009 that followed 3,779 Swedish twins for 30 years. Those who ate more fruits and vegetables had significantly lower rates of dementia.

A large review by South Korea’s Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health analyzed 690 studies on dementia. Their review conclude that diets lower in saturated fats and higher in vegetable consumption reduced the risk of dementia.

These also support 1993 research conducted at Loma Linda University Medical School on 272 human subjects. This research found that those who ate primarily plant-based diets had half the risk of dementia than those consuming primarily animal-based diets.

Exercise Evidence that exercise reduces the risk of dementia is mounting. The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study that measured the effect of exercise upon 138 human subjects. After only 24 weeks of exercise, participants enjoyed higher levels of cognition through an 18-month follow-up period.

Let’s not forget that in health prevention strategies, a combination plan can make a lot of sense. Most of the above are plant-based or of plant origin. Therefore, there is typically little in the way of side effects when these foods and vitamins supplements are taken moderately and under the guidance of a trained herbalist, naturopath or other health professional knowledgeable in nutritional and herbal strategies.

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